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Shaping up: Controlling a stem cell's form can determine its fate
Date:9/13/2011

ps of insect-eaten lettuce), freeform fabrication (like microscopic rods stacked in a crisscross pattern) and electrospun nanofibers (a random nest of thin fibers). Bone marrow stromal cells were cultured on each, then analyzed to see which were most effective at creating deposits of calciuma telltale of bone cell activity. Microarray analysis also was used to determine patterns of gene expression for the cultured cells.

The results show that the stem cells will differentiate quite efficiently on the nanofiber scaffoldseven without any hormone additivesbut not so on the other architectures. The distinction, says NIST biologist Carl Simon, Jr., seems to be shape. Mature bone cells are characteristically long and stringy with several extended branches. Of the five different scaffolds, only the nanofiber one, in effect, forces the cells to a similar shape, long and branched, as they try to find anchor points. Being in the shape of a bone cell seems to induce the cells to activate the genes that ultimately produce bone tissue.

"This suggests that a good strategy to design future scaffolds would be to take into account what shape you want to put the cells in," says Simon, adding, "That's kind of a tall order though, you'd have to understand a lot of stuff: how cell morphology influences cell behavior, and then how the three-dimensional structure can be used to control it." Despite the research still to be done on this method, the ability to physically direct cell differentiation by shape alone potentially would be simpler, cheaper and possibly safer than using biochemical supplements, he says.


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Contact: Michael Baum
baum@nist.gov
301-975-2763
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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